EDS Atlantic Challenge skippers discuss the challenges presented by tough sailing and short stopovers

Three legs down, two to go and with the toughest part of the EDS Atlantic Challenge behind them, the skippers and crews of this inaugural event take time to reflect on the race so far and the course that lies ahead.

If the wind gods play fair, leg four, from Baltimore to Boston, should be a downwind sail in light to moderate conditions. This should favour Ecover and Gartmore, the beamy Finot designs that are optimised to sail with spinnakers rather than headsails.

Beyond Boston lies a full-on push to the finish in France favouring those crews that have the stamina and fortitude to push an Open 60 beyond reasonable limits. In all, combined with the short stopovers, it is proving to be a challenging event.

Josh Hall is relishing the challenge. “I really like the fact that as skipper I need to factor in the short amount of time budgeted for each stopover into my overall game plan. We know that if we push too hard and break something as a result and cannot fix it during the layover, then we will be penalized for the rest of the race.

“I also like the fact that during the stopovers we have to work really hard to get the boats sorted in time for the next leg. We are endurance racers and this is an endurance event.”

Mike Golding, skipper of Ecover, suggested the rushed stops raised safety concerns. “On one hand I like the compressed time frame under which this event is run, but I think that we really need more time in the stops to get the boats in perfect order before setting off on a new leg. It’s safer and the boats can be pushed harder.”

Nick Moloney, Kingfisher’s Australian co-skipper, was just happy to be there. “I am learning so much from racing against these guys. In some ways this is the toughest event I have participated in. When I sailed the Whitbread race we had tough legs, but we also had long stopovers to recover. I am not sure which is more difficult.”

Having sat out the third leg to recouperate after a non-stop year of sailing, Sill’s skipper Roland ‘Bilou’ Jourdain should be bright and breezy but, like any proud parent? “It was very difficult to see my boat, my baby, sailing across the ocean without me. I knew that Gael and the crew would take care of Sill, but it was still very difficult.”

Bilou predicts a similar reaction as Ellen MacArethur watches Kingfisher’s progress from Europe. “I know that Ellen will not find it easy. She will worry about her boat and I will miss our friendly rivalry, but in the end it is the boats that are the rivals and they will still be doing the race.”

The fourth leg starts at 1600 local time (2000 GMT) from Norfolk, Virginia on Monday6 August. The final leg returns to St. Malo, France, where the first yachts are expected to finish the race between August 23-26 August.